Tobacco retailers in San Antonio, Texas prepare for a new city ordinance effective October 1st. Starting next week, the legal age to purchase tobacco products goes from 18 years up to 21, local press reports. The ordinance is appropriately called ‘Tobacco 21.’
Under FDA classification, e-cigarettes and pod vapes, available at many gas stations and convenience stores across the country, are tobacco products. This ruling applies to the vape market as much as the cigarette market.
Don’t Mess With Texas
San Antonio is the first city in the state to restrict tobacco product purchases to persons under the age of 21. The new ordinance passed in January this year by a city council vote of 8-2, according to local reports. Retailers have a three-month grace period to adjust to new requirements without penalty. After the new year, merchants caught in violation face up to a $500 fine for selling products to underage buyers.
Tobacco retailers’ new requirements include displaying city-issued signage alongside the state’s required signage. Retailers must also update and apply new employee training for the changes, including ID-checking anyone who appears to be under 27 years old.
Colleen Bridger, San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District Director, told local press that, since the January vote, some 1,100 retailers received visits from departmental inspectors to inform them of the upcoming legislative changes. The Department also held at least seven meetings to allow merchants and community members to ask questions and receive information about said changes.
In The Know
Yet, some local store employees told Roseanna Garza, of The Rivard Report, they were unaware of the impending requirements until the signage began to show up at their stores by mail.
“I don’t doubt that something was said to someone, but it wasn’t [to] me,” said Arianna Gonzales, an attendant at an area Valero gas station. Regardless, Gonzales and many other merchant employees do not anticipate the ordinance to impact sales much, if at all. “Either no one cares or they say, ‘That’s good. We don’t want kids smoking,’” Gonzales told Garza in an interview.
An Ongoing Concern
Folks under 21 may still be able to easily access and purchase tobacco products from nearby locales, however. After the vote in January, San Antonio Metro Health decided on an October roll-out to work with the surrounding cities and municipalities on developing, adopting, and introducing similar statutes.
A Texas anti-smoking advocacy group is also working to introduce a statewide version of the ‘Tobacco 21’ ordinance.
San Antonio joins over 350 cities and counties across US states – such as California, Oregon, Massetchussets, and New Jersey – in raising the legal purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21.